John Edwards

Sovereign of the Seas

Isabella of Castile: Europe’s First Great Queen

By

Bloomsbury 607pp £25 order from our bookshop

Queens and queenship are now very fashionable subjects in historical writing, yet there has not been a major book in English devoted to the life of Isabella I of Castile since 2004, when Peggy K Liss published a revised edition of her 1992 work.

Giles Tremlett, a journalist resident in Spain who has already shown his prowess as a historian in his biography of Isabella’s youngest daughter, Catherine of Aragon, here offers a lively and generally fluent account of the life of the Catholic King (a title granted to Isabella and her husband, Ferdinand, by Pope Alexander VI, a Spaniard, who is luridly portrayed here). The book is based on very extensive and up-to-date research involving both primary and secondary sources. It offers a largely chronological account of Isabella’s life, from her birth in 1451, when it was never seriously expected that she would inherit the Castilian throne, to her death in 1504, by which stage she had become a powerful ruler, not only of her own kingdom but also of its growing overseas territories. By virtue of her marriage to Ferdinand of Aragon she also exercised some authority in that kingdom and his other dominions, which included Sicily and much of southern Italy.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'One of the reasons for its longevity is that it has virtually nothing to say about science and technology at all,… ,
    • 'The characters in many of these stories are trapped in the obsessive present tense of their own thoughts; in the m… ,
    • 'Libraries, for much of their existence, have embodied in microcosm many of the characteristics of the totalitarian… ,
    • 'Moss and Cynthia buy several properties through which to launder their ill-gotten gains, take lots of drugs, have… ,
    • 'Never mind the imperial cult. This is the cult of Boris. What happened to Rome?' From the LR archive:… ,
    • Thirty-two years ago this month, we published Muriel Spark's short story, 'A Playhouse Called Remarkable' Read it… ,
    • Time travel, bicycles and white horses populate @WomackPhilip's roundup of children's books by @marcussedgwick,… ,